The Pussycat Dolls return with fired-up new single “React”

After a decade away, the poster girls of sexy female empowerment are back — and maybe better than ever?

It’s 2020, and everything old is new again. My Chemical Romance is selling out arenas all over the country, the Jonas Bros. are better than they’ve ever been, and Disney reboots and remakes are ruling the box office. Nostalgia is the most powerful force in pop culture today.

It makes sense, then, that The Pussycat Dolls would capitalize on this new wave of pop culture revivals and get back together (well, most of them, anyway) to stage an epic comeback. After all, the market is sorely lacking in girl groups now that Little Mix, Girls Aloud, Spice Girls, et al. are nowhere to be found.

You could make the argument that there’s no audience for a quintet of sexed-up pop starlets in 2020… but a generation of older millennials raised on PCD’s brand of infectious, sexy empowerment anthems would disagree. Gay twitter, PCD fans and the general public alike have been thirsty for news about the Pussycat Dolls for years, with endless rumors of reboots, recastings and rebrandings since the group disappeared after sophomore album “Doll Domination.”

The U.K. has always been particularly kind to girl groups, and especially kind to Nicole Scherzinger, who has managed to carve out a career for herself there as a pop star and TV host/judge. Hot on the heels of a surprise performance on the U.K.’s “X Factor” at the end of 2019, PCD are boldly thrusting themselves back into the pop consciousness and creating a space for themselves in the current media landscape with new single “React,” and its accompanying music video.

Fronted again by lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, the holy reincarnation of PCD reunites Carmit Bachar, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta and Kimberly Wyatt for a new round of sensual dance-pop burlesque realness. The last time we saw the group, they were releasing Bollywood-lite bops (“Jai Ho”) and underrated disco samples (“Hush Hush; Hush Hush”), but the sound of pop in 2020 has evolved, and so has PCD’s sound. Taking a page from the Danity Kane playbook (RIP?), the Dolls have eschewed their typical hip-hop/pop fusion for straight-up dance music.

It’s not an immediate hit, and it certainly doesn’t feel like an obvious radio-friendly smash, but it’s a catchy earworm of a track that weasles itself into your brain and takes up residence. As a buzzy comeback single, it’s sure to make a splash. With rapid-fire verses and a pulsing midtempo electrobeat, “React” represents a new sound and a new message for PCD 2.0. Gone are the blunt sexual advances of songs like “Don’t Cha” and “Buttons,” opting instead for… reflection? With lyrics like, “ Looking for a little confrontation/Now I know the nice guys turn me bad,” the track has Scherzinger and company still leaning fully into bad girl personas, but maybe growing up a little bit and wondering about a loving partner who doesn’t engage with shitty inflammatory behavior like picking fights and throwing fits.

You’re turning me cruel ’cause I’m just wanting you to react

Music video for The Pussycat Dolls’ “React.”

Then there’s that video. Is your body ready? You might want to sit down for this one and buckle up. It might have been 10 years since the Dolls last performed as a group, but you wouldn’t know it from this video. These women are in their prime, with their sexuality on full display. The Dolls have never been known for subtlety, but even with that in mind, “React” is quite possibly the sexiest video they’ve ever produced — a huge statement from a group composed of women in their late-30s and early-40s. Carmit Bachar is 45 and has arguably never looked better, and the same can be said for each of the other women. Yes, these women are more than just their bodies and their looks, but at the same time, their bold display of physicality and sexuality is powerful and important. Society, and the music industry as a whole, is usually prepared to discard women of this age and dismiss them as old or irrelevant, but this video is a fierce and unapologetic middle-finger to any notion that women of a certain age can’t be powerful, sexy and downright legendary.

Whereas PCD 1.0 at times felt exploitative and capitalistic. It was, after all, a carefully calculated attempt to expand a burlesque troop into a powerhouse pop girl group, and while it started off as in-your-face sex-pop, the group quickly established itself as a powerhouse force and dared us not to take them seriously. The women are ready to reclaim their throne of pop royalty, and this new version of the quintet feels authentically empowered. Each of these women has found her own brand of success in the years since The Pussycat Dolls dissolved, and many of them have been vocal with their displeasure at the way the group was structured and treated during its first run. One would hope, then, that PCD 2.0 has fixed the wrongs of the past and that these women have teamed up again because they want to, because they’ll be treated fairly, and because the world needs them.

The women haven’t announced a full-length album yet, but they’re already planning on touring to promote this new material. A new era of Doll domination is already upon us… Are you ready?

A recovering pop music addict who’s finding his way in the wide, wonderful world of music.

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